By Matt Chaban - Reprinted from Crain's New York Business
In a proposal to be formally unveiled Wednesday night, the Upper East Side school will unveil plans to build a two-story research building with a landscaped green roof and a conference center over the highway.
|Rendering of a deck Rockefeller University would build over the FDR Highway.|
Photo by Rafael Vinoly Architects.
The university, which stretches from East 62nd to East 68th streets along York Avenue, will unveil plans Wednesday night to build two small buildings on a platform over the highway along the East River. There will be a two-story research building measuring 160,000 square feet with a landscaped green roof and a conference center. The platform will extend roughly from East 64th Street to East 68th Street.
"The new building is critical to maintaining the university's excellent standards for research and teaching, by allowing for the recruitment of new faculty to replace those lost by attrition, and for the renewal of laboratory space that is outdated and poorly suited to modern science," said a spokesman in an email.
He stressed that the small buildings would not impede views of or from Manhattan, nor would they expand the university's size "in terms of personnel or activities." This is thanks to an innovative design from local architect Rafael Viñoly, where the two-story building will actually be built into the platform, so that the roof is level with the rest of the campus. This will create a larger quad without taking up space on the expanded campus. Whether the older research buildings will be replaced or redeveloped is still being determined.
This is the not the first time the university, established by John D. Rockefeller in 1901 to champion medical research, has expanded over the busy highway below. In 1987, a dormitory building opened atop a platform over the southbound lanes of the FDR between 62nd and 63rd streets. Five years later, a new research building was finished over both lanes of the highway at 64th Street. The new platform will extend from there all the way up to the northern edge of the campus.
The university is not the only institution to take advantage of cantilevered real estate: both the United Nations to the south, and Weill Cornell Medical Center directly to the north overhang the highway.
On terra firma, the university also has plans to convert a parking lot on the northwest corner of the campus, at East 68th Street and York Avenue, into a new athletic center, which will consolidate facilities from across campus.
The project does not yet have a price tag or a firm timeline, though it will need zoning approvals before it can move forward. Wednesday night, the plans will be presented to the local community board's land-use committee, which will eventually vote on the project. The university already owns the air rights over the highway, so once it has the city's blessing, building should not be a problem.
Hunter Armstrong, executive director Civitas, an Upper East Side advocacy group focused on open space issues in the neighborhood, said the idea was interesting, but it raised cause for concern over impacts on the adjacent East River Esplanade. “We’re trying to rescue the esplanade, which has long been neglected, so we have to be careful of the impacts of these cantilevers on our park,” Mr. Armstrong said.
The Rockefeller spokesman noted that it would be proposing improvements to the esplanade along the length of the campus as public benefit from the expansion, though it would require city support and planning to do so. One dream of Mr. Armstrong’s, that the university would open up its 14-acre campus to the public—a space that will grow larger with the new platform—remains unlikely.
“The nature of some of the work we do here, it’s not appropriate to the public coming onto the campus,” the spokesman said.
Mr. Armstrong feared the expansion could set a dangerous precedent, or accelerate one already under way. “I don’t want to see these cantilevered buildings becoming a model for all future development on the east side of the East Side,” he said. “They’re quite uninviting spaces and they can become echo chambers.”
View the original article at Crain's New York Business.
and "Space-Starved East Side University Wants To Expand Over FDR" on Curbed NY.